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‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ is exactly what you would expect a Rowan Atkinson film to be: slap stick funny, quirky, a little irreverent, with a small amount of awkwardness on the side. The film parodies our level of dependence on technology, the power of Silicon Valley elites, and Western Society’s obsession with political correctness. [1]

Atkinson and Ben Miller make an excellent comedy duo. Their reunion for ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’, makes this third film more of a sequel than second. The female leads, played by Emma Thompsons and Olga Kurylenko are in balance with the eccentricities of Johnny English and the serious attributes of Angus Bough.  Thompson’s character is fumbling, frantic and Prime Ministerial, whereas Kurylenko’s character is all about completing the mission successfully.

The third instalment in the Johnny English trilogy takes aim at our level of dependence on technology. Exaggerations for comedic effect are obvious, but within those there’s a serious critique of how easy it is to lose control of information; how data could be compromised or manipulated by anyone with the resources and knowledge to do it. [2]

The film critiques the trust placed in those who live and work in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley Corporations have access to people’s lives and private information; the kind of access to people only ever witnessed in a totalitarian State. The differences being that these corporations benefit from capitalism and people are willing to give them access to their lives, and hard-earned money, in exchange for a service or a reliable product. Silicon Valley corporations have a lot of power. The premise, and trust placed in these corporations, as worked out in ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ is something akin to: He, who controls the internet, controls the world.

Leaving behind the second film (‘Johnny English Reborn’) the third movie goes back to the formula of the first and borrows a little from its sequel. This isn’t a bad thing. As one of my perceptive daughters observed, ‘Johnny English: Reborn’ (Johnny English 2) wasn’t as good as the first or third in the trilogy, because Angus Bough [pronounced “Boff”; played by Ben Miller) wasn’t in it. Atkinson and Miller make an excellent comedy duo. Miller’s return as Bough in ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ proves that leaving Miller’s character out of ‘Johnny English Reborn’ was a huge mistake.

The third film borrows from the second in how it makes fun of the West’s obsession with political correctness. Where Post-Modern sensitivities are excessive, they are justifiably mocked. For instance, in one scene, English is met by an agent who, in answer to a question about acquiring a gun for a mission, said, “Guns? Well, we don’t really do those anymore; we prefer a more diplomatic approach.” (Paraphrased).  In another scene, the ever pragmatic English chooses a muscle car over an “environmentally friendly” hybrid, due to its zero dependency on computer technology.

The film succeeds in applying comic relief to serious criticisms – these criticisms being our dependency on technology, the power of Silicon Valley elites, and excessive political correctness. Johnny English Strikes Again is an exciting film which links up better with the first film than its sequel. Although not absent of one or two ridiculous scenes, the film takes the tension between analogue versus digital and suggests that analogue may still have a significant part to play in an age of espionage and information technology[3].


Notes & References:

[1] Hence the review I’ve written for it.

[2] For example Russia’s alleged interference, and collusion, with Donald Trump and his campaigners during the United States 2016 election; as well as the FBI allegedly pushing their own form of interference, on behalf of the Democrat Party candidate Hillary Clinton and the incumbent President Barak Obama.

[3] The analogue vs. digital tension is reminiscent of Kelsey Grammer’s brilliant 1996 film, ‘Down Periscope.

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Disclaimer: I received no remuneration of any kind for providing this review.

Karl Barth is viewed by many as being one of the 20th Century’s most important theologians.The chief reason for this is the renewed focus on Jesus Christ that he brought back into all aspects of theology. Barth’s approach to Jesus Christ and the Bible, involved letting Jesus Christ and the Bible approach him. He “let the Bible speak for itself.”

I see a great deal of humility and joy in that approach. Not only do I aim to savour every bit of time I set aside to read Barth, I aim to let Barth’s approach to theology be an example, which I can borrow from in my own journey towards an ever maturing theological education.

So it’s with some reluctance that I outline and seek to explain my three core criticisms of Karl Barth. From the outset it’s important to point out that these criticisms are not in regards to persevered contradictions in his theological conclusions. The goal here is to work from the ground up, covering aspects of his work which provide certain difficulties for his students today.

My first criticism of Karl Barth is his extramarital affair with his secretary and primary researcher, Charlotte Von Kirschbaum.  Second is his reluctance to criticise the brutal nature of Communism and third is the question about whether Barth did enough to avoid his work descending into a closed community; a kind of pious and esoteric, Barthian social club.

My first criticism is straight forward. Barth found himself between two loving women, but he crossed lines. This was something his family was silent about, until recently, when they opened up access to correspondence between Karl, Nelly (Karl Barth’s wife and mother to his five children) and Charlotte (his secretary/fellow researcher and theologian in her own right). Up until this time, Barth’s extramarital affair had been quietly mentioned by biographers, but was always footnoted as conjecture.

The positive take away from their letters is that they show Nelly Barth, hurt, but still shining the light of Christ through her reactions and responses. Nelly presents an example of resilience, determination and faith in difficult and trying circumstances.

In addition, Karl Barth wrestled with his situation and choices. He never publicly boasted about his relationship with Charlotte. The extramarital relationship reminds us that Karl Barth was just a man. He was susceptible to the same issues as every other man, no matter how great they are. As others have pointed out, his own theology speaks it’s own criticism of his decisions. He wrestled within himself and with his own theology. Any accusation Barth used his theology to justify his spousal abuse is inconsistent with what is encountered in Barth’s words and work. What we encounter is a man who was constantly confronted by the contradiction between his own theology and the consequences that stemmed from the decisions he made. None of this, however, removes Karl Barth from being accountable for engaging in a relationship that he would have known was a betrayal of his wife, Nelly.

My second criticism is not so straight forward. Barth was an outspoken anti-Nazi theologian. So much so that he was deported from Germany for refusing to take the Hitler oath, unless changes were made, whereby the ideology and its leader were not deified. Unfortunately, when it came to Communism, Barth refused to show the same fierce consistency. He is silent about Marxist killing fields in Asia, and about its oppressive totalitarian rule in Eastern Europe.

Two possible reasons exist for this. Reason number one was Barth’s age and circumstances. He wasn’t in the position he was in when living in Nazi Germany; being a lot older he probably considered the fight against Communist terror to be well covered and didn’t want to lend support to an ever-increasing hysteria or phobia of the Russian people. If that protest is well established and achieving its goals, why add your voice to the “howling of wolves”? To do so would have been more about self-promotion, than promoting awareness about the suffering of others.

Reason number two is the possibility that Barth figured his theological statements and work, would stand for itself as a restrained critique of Marxism. In view of Church Dogmatics 3:2, it’s probable that Barth saw his theology, particularly his “Nein” to natural theology, as being also an inherent nein to Marxism. Barth’s anthropological theology in 3:2 contains a subtle rejection of Marxism’s deification of class war, social division, the state, subjugation of theology (into the service of an ideology), the reign of terror and potential global reign of terror attached to it.

One example of many is this statement which is contra to Marxist historical materialism/determinism:

‘Man & woman’s historical determination is that God wills to be with them and they with God.’
(Karl Barth, CD. 3:2:427)

It’s naïve to suggest that Barth was simply ignorant of the oppression and violence faced by those living under Marxist rule. Just as naïve would be the assumption that Barth did know, but simply brushed it off as a “capitalist conspiracy.” While it’s possible that Barth took the same approach as the French Communists in their denial of Gulags, purges and the fear of the Cheka, it’s unlikely that Barth was so deliberately dismissive.

Equally unlikely is the implication which stems from this, that suggests Barth was dedicated to protecting a political party and its toxic ideological platform. Although Barth refusing to ”howl with the wolves”, was him simply refusing to add to the hysteria of the mob, his absence from genuine criticisms of the crimes of communism is inconsistent with his stand against Nazism.

My third criticism is split between Barth and his students. On Barth’s side, there’s an effort to detach himself from becoming an idol, but did he do enough to avoid people reading his work before the Bible? On the student’s side there’s a tendency to idolise Barth and turn his theology into a rigid systematic method; or support a rigid oppressive system[1], rather than view Barth’s theology as a helpful travelling companion[2].

Trying to grasp Barth’s theology is like to trying to hold water in cupped hands. The water can’t be easily grasped, and is even harder to hold. This lends itself to explain the problem when people try to build their own systems around Barth’s theology. The biggest example of this is found in what I would call a pompous, Barthian Gnosticism.

Whilst this definition is not definitive, it’s the best description I can find for the closed community, which has built up a dam like castle from which ordinary people are prevented access. Barth is only reachable for an elect few. Everyone else is doomed to hearing Barth through their lens, or the lens of their choosing. Consequently, we hear more from theological journalists, than we hear from Barth.

Whether intended or not, there are ‘towers of Babel’ built up around Barth[3]. Like the not so easy to grasp Church Dogmatics, it’s difficult to contribute or participate in a Barthian realm. The tower is defended by those who often proudly identify ideologically as “Leftists or progressives”.Some of whom are are “privileged”, Ivy League scholars, who tend to blurr the line between Karl Barth and Karl Marx; as they take to the perch of Marxism to preach a kind of Barthian social gospel[4]. Anyone with a different view is viewed as a threat, and the offender is subsequently dealt with.

Hence the pompous Gnostic nature of the closed community, they only let in those who choose to conform to the agreed upon special knowledge they might claim to have found in Barthian theology, or become subservient to the prevailing ideology that is built up around it. For this elect few, knowledge of Karl Barth is special, and only available to those deemed worthy of being able to hold it. Therefore it’s perceived to be a given that a conservative cannot be a Barthian, but a Barthian must be a progressive or a socialist[5].

The Socialist hold on Karl Barth comes from the fact that he was a member of the Social Democrats. Another part of this socialist hold on Karl Barth is that he was called the “Red Pastor” during his ten-year tenure as Pastor in Safenwil. However, he wasn’t a sold out fan. He distanced himself from the rhetoric and movement[6]; and “Red Pastor” was fed partly by suspicion, partly by frustration, but is mostly sarcasm. This is to be taken more cum grano salis, than as a literal description of Karl Barth’s political and ideological allegiances. The title “Red Pastor”, to my knowledge, was a title that Barth never wore with pride, let alone promoted or wanted promoted.

Herein rests the crux of my criticism. If this socialist cementing of Karl Barth as a Marxist hero goes unanswered, he will become more unreachable for the average lay person. The closed community that surrounds Barth is under lock and key. Like the hysterical hounding[7] which surrounded Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, access to Barth would be denied to the “working class”.  Metaxas, a conservative, entered a modern liberal world, and invited the masses to hear about an important historical figure. It was more Metaxas’ conservatism than the content of his book, which led largely left leaning academics to reject it. It seems that only those with permission from Leftist academics, and who can prove that they have the “correct” political leanings, can comment on or write about subjects that Leftist academics think they own, or have been granted a kind of divine special knowledge about.

There are a few exceptions to the rule, but this similar lens is applied to Barth. His works and words are encapsulated in a kind of sacred Leftist packaging. Everything which differs from the political narrative built up and forced onto Barth is downplayed, mocked or rejected.The perpetual Marxist war between an “us & them” ejects conciliation, as it propels the elect few into rejecting-without-just-cause all opposing viewpoints from anyone outside the socialist paradigm. Without examination, opposing viewpoints are met with suspicion written off as tainted, ignorant or worse. The exceptions to this include some more of balanced aspects of Princeton’s Centre for Barth Studies, authors such as John Webster, Daniel Migliore, Ebherhard Busch, Frank Jehle, and the Social Media site Karl Barth for Dummies.

The impression I received when trying to engage in the Barth community is that the elect few read Barth, and cheer others on, as long as the material justifies their own ideological positions. They take ownership of Barth and become guardians of a mythos[8] that the closed community has built around him and his theology. This is something Barth refused to cede to the conservative evangelicals of his day. I believe he would be of the same mind, with regards to socialists and progressives today.

In conclusion, it was with some reluctance that I set out to explain three core criticisms of Karl Barth. These criticisms are core concerns that function as a guide post on how to navigate a community closed to foreigners[9] and theological orphans. These three criticisms include the disconnection between parts of Barth’s theology and his life choices. The sole example of this was Barth’s extramarital relationship with Charlotte Von Kirschbaum. Secondly, I made a point of criticism about his silence when it came to the crimes of communism and the suffering of those who live under its regimes. The third criticism is that Barth didn’t intend to create a Barthian school, and discouraged others from creating one, but unfortunately, his silence about communism seems to have worked against this goal. He might have refused to be owned by any faction[10], but a faction has risen in his name all the same. This shows that Barth was either too trusting or didn’t adequately anticipate the cult like movement that would use him, and his theology, to promote a utopian ideology responsible for the oppression, death and suffering of millions.


Notes & References:

[1] Examples include: moralism and Marxism (which is, in praxis, a form of moralism in and of itself)

[2] (Think of the jovial Friar Tuck, flawed Father Mulcahy and the gracious, but assertive paternal voice of Gandalf.)

[3] This is a tiresome subject and is wrought with holes. Nothing is clear cut, because there are overlaps. This said, for anyone looking to engage in the community of theologians who read Barth, they will come up against a closed community; one that resembles a pious and esoteric social club.

[4] I will agree that Barth uses a lot of the similar language of Marx. I would not agree that a person needs to be an expert on Marx, to properly understand Barth. Barth was a product of his age. This doesn’t mean his theology itself is written through the lens of Marxism – “us & them” – there is a clear difference. For Barth it’s “God & us” and the unbridgeable divide between proletariat and bourgeoisie in Marx, is for Barth the qualitative distinction “God is God and we are not”. Although other examples exist, the distinction made here between Marx and Barth could not be any clearer.

[5] I consider myself neither a conservative nor a progressive. I would only own the statement that I currently share in the concerns that conservatives have about the direction of Western society and everything in between.

[6] As in Barth refused to be a poster boy, much to the dismay and frustration of many who were Social Democrats.

[7] It’s interesting to note that this was before Trump was elected, but has the same ungracious “resistance” and hate attached to it.

[8] A set of assumptions and beliefs.

[9] Those who hold an opposing view or are seen as different and unacceptable because of their ideological/political leanings.

[10] Placing his profile, as some have done, on a red background next to the Bolshevik leader Lenin, and the like, can be nothing other than a brutal betrayal of Barth.

* ‘Bureaucracy is the encounter of the blind with those whom they treat as blind…It is not the man who works in the bureau, for to some extent we all have to do this, but the bureaucrat who is always inhuman.’ (CD. 3:2:252)

** ‘Those who try to fight the Gospel always make caricatures, and they are often forced to fight these caricatures. Nietzsche’s own (and not all that original), was to equate Christianity with Socialist teaching.’ (CD 3:2:242)

*** ‘Marxism with its exclusively economic view of human affairs and all the theoretical and practical consequences, is a violation of history which in its way is no less bad than [the social Darwinism] which Haeckel and his associates imposed on human nature.’ (CD:3:2:386-389)

**** ‘The New Testament does not look for an amelioration of present conditions or for an ideal state, but for the coming of the Lord – Maranatha.’ (CD.3:2:486-487)

**** ‘Man can owe no creature what he owes to God – himself in his totality. Nothing [created] can claim from humanity, servitude. When a created thing imposes this demand on man, and when man recognises the demand, we have nothing but the invalid claim of false gods. No created thing can substantiate the Creator’s right over [what and who He created].’ (CD.3:2:414)

Header image credit: Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Guest post by Heather Mertens

Changing words and ways over to a “reinterpreted” view, especially when done to fit an agenda, has certainly made its mark in this world by this new generation of “thinkers”. But how did they become so emboldened to change words to mean what they decide they should mean? A silent generation, that’s how.

It’s been proven throughout history that mass amounts of people will believe something, even something untrue, if they are told it enough times with loud enough voices.

The 1980’s ushered in the “I’m okay, you’re okay” worldview in the western world, which was birthed out of that silent generation’s children. But nothing lasts long these days. About 15 years or so ago, that all turned into “I’m okay because I’m going to do what I want and believe what I want. What you believe is irrelevant and unconcerning”.

Worse yet is what that mentality has turned into this past 5 years or so… the generation of “If I am okay that’s all that matters, and you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Now, I never speak in gross generalizations, and I loathe labeling for the sake of lumping people groups together.  So, I know not every person in each of these generations fell into those agendas. However, a movement of sorts came out of each that has shaken the modern world’s particulars to the core. At least, to a great degree of certainty and observation, we can say this all to be true about the United States, which has led the world in freedoms… some run amok.

As far removed as this newest generation would love to believe that they’ve taken themselves from the few generations that paved a way many now regret, the truth is obvious and painful. They are in complete chaos. They took the adamant desire to “not be silent” and ran so far in the other direction that they feel a misguided obligation to essentially shove their very agendas down the throats of everyone else.

From a whole generation 75 years ago that cherished and expected silence came this generation of chaos to never be silent again.

And that silent generation has birthed this chaos.

To the world and in the world they were silent…

They were silent about sex.

They were silent about sexuality.

They were silent about identity.

They were silent about politics.

They were silent about God.

They were silent about giving a reason for their faith.

They were silent on so many things. And now there is chaos.

It might not have happened overnight in the last 75 years, but it happened rather quickly. And the masses have changed drastically in the last decade. Why? Because inside chaos people don’t know what they are hearing; they can’t tell which end is up. So they look around for clues.

You have the most signs? You talk the loudest and most often? People will listen. And people will believe what you say. Why? Because nearly an entire generation has lost its ability to think for itself. And why is that? Because the generation that came years before them was silent.

Silence got us to a point that we didn’t fight for what we knew was worth fighting for in life. Like life. 

Silence got us abortion on demand … because they demand it … “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Silence got us an identity crisis to exponential levels … because they demand it …  “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Silence got us redefined concepts of family … because they demand it…  “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Silence got us politics just shy of lunatics … because they demand it …  “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

And they were silent about God and His Truth in public places. They were silent about most of these things in churches, too. In this regard, silence got us redefined churches by the whole denomination and “reinterpreted” Scripture to fit this chaotic culture.

Liberal theology, which was already far enough removed from actual Biblical Truth in many areas, became dominated by progressive politics.

And they’ve changed the language and meaning of words. Love is being redefined. Faith is being redefined. Life is being redefined. God. God is being redefined.

But only to a generation unwilling to think for themselves… or worse yet, to the extent they actually believe they are thinking things through for themselves while clouded by the chaos around them.

But…

Truth is immutable. 

God is immutable. 

His Word is immutable. 

A new generation of forceful agenda driven people can’t change the immutability of God’s Truth.

Silence can’t change it.

They can talk differently. Sing differently. Congregate differently. They can change to fit the new ways…  “You HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

But they can’t change Truth.

Who is going to stand up for Truth? We must. But are we running out of time?


Heather Mertens has studied Scripture and Theology in various ways throughout the years, sharing much of what she has learned via her studies as well as her life experience. She has a Certificate in Apologetics-Core Module from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Academy. She has also had the joy and blessing of learning Theology and Biblical Studies from her daughter, who is finishing up her 2nd Theology and Biblical Studies degree and has a Biblical Studies Certificate, all from Liberty University.

Heather shares her personal experience and writes in Apologetics-style at 40YearWanderer.wordpress.com as well as on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HeatherMertens) and on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/thelifeofwhy/) where she shares Scriptural Truth for Life’s Biggest Questions in hopes that people can come together to know what the Bible actually says.

Her pure joy is raising her daughter to adulthood and now enjoys her freelance web design and marketing career of helping people find their unique web presence… and the beach!


Photo credit: Echo Grid on Unsplash

Yesterday, reacting to the maiden speech by Katter’s Australia Party senator, Fraser Anning, who broadly (and in some areas of his speech, recklessly) called for a review of Australia’s immigration policies, Australian senator, Lucy Gichuhi, (who was born in Kenya) asked the question: “At what point do you become an Australian?”

Lucy’s answer was, “…when I get a citizenship paper! Full stop! Period! Finished!”

I follow Senator Gichuhi’s political posts. I supported Senator Bob Day, of the Family First party, passing his position over to her after his election win was declared invalid because of a candidacy conflict with the Constitution. I was encouraged when Senator Gichuhi was duly found by the High Court to have a legitimate election win. In addition to this I was thankful Senator Gichuhi had taken a  brave stand for healthy traditional family values in Australia, and I’m often interested in hearing her opinion on other subjects. However, the Senator’s answer to her own question yesterday was off the mark.

The answer to Senator Gichuhi’s question,  “At what point do you become an Australian?” isn’t as simple as obtaining a piece of paper that grants the right of citizenship. What comes with that right is also the responsibilities and commitments which are attached to citizenship. It’s discouraging to here a Senator in the Australian parliament claim that what makes a person an Australian is “…when they get a citizenship paper! Full stop! Period! Finished!”

Australian citizen doesn’t stop with a piece of paper. Citizenship papers signify not only the right to be recognised as a citizen, but also that the person who has chosen to become an Australian citizen, is willing to live out the responsibilities associated with the recognition of citizenship. For anyone not born in Australia, to both be and become an Australian goes hand in hand. The adoption has been made official, but it takes time to own membership in that family. Membership in that family is learned. Membership in that family cannot truly become membership if the adoption is rejected by the person being adopted.

Civics 101 talks about the reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship between citizen, neighbour and state. Rights do not get to trump responsibility. Both collective and personal responsibility are vital elements of successful cohesion within a diverse society, and the oversight of small, good government.

The question “At what point do you become an Australian?” is easily answered as:

1.) A person who signs on to become a citizen or is born in Australia.

2.) A citizen who chooses to abide by English common law as set down in Australian law

3.) A citizen who has a respect for and knowledge of Australian history and civics – including a clear understanding of the importance of Judeo-Christian, and classical liberal values.

4.) Speaks English reasonably well, or is willing to learn it (for their own benefit as much as everyone else’s).

5.) Has a love, or at the very least a deep appreciation for all these things and what they’ve delivered.

6.) Is willing to defend (a) through (d) and respect our national holidays.

All these points line up with The Australian Citizenship Act of 2007:

‘The Parliament recognises that Australian citizenship represents full and formal membership of the community of the Commonwealth of Australia, and Australian citizenship is a common bond, involving reciprocal rights and obligations, uniting all Australians, while respecting their diversity.

                   The Parliament recognises that persons conferred Australian citizenship enjoy these rights and undertake to accept these obligations:

                     (a)  by pledging loyalty to Australia and its people; and

                     (b)  by sharing their democratic beliefs; and

                     (c)  by respecting their rights and liberties; and

                     (d)  by upholding and obeying the laws of Australia.’ (Source)

Citizenship is reciprocal and involves a daily commitment to the nation and its people as agreed to in the Pledge of Commitment:

“From this time forward, under God,
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect,
and whose laws I will uphold and obey.”  (Source)

The imperatives of citizenship are participation and contribution. These entail the right to be recognised and the responsibility to dignify that recognition, by honouring the agreed upon commitment made between both the nation and the individual.

Even though multi-ethnic communities form part of what it means to be Australian. Australian culture is not multiculturalism. Just as Australian citizenship is not defined by the colour of a person’s skin; Australian citizenship is not defined by a person’s ethnicity.

However, immigrants to Australia should be sensitive to what it means to be an Australian. This means knowing, adopting and respecting the fact that the mother tongue of Australian culture is English. That Australian culture, its civics, its theology and politics are built on a Judeo-Christian, classical liberal European and Indigenous Australian heritage.

As Senator Fraser Anning so clumsily tried to communicate, there are immigrants who have come to Australia, are granted citizenship, have accepted that citizenship, but have refused to become what it means to be Australian. Immigrants who do this, are not living up to their end of the citizenship agreement.

Unfortunately, if anyone raises concerns about this issue they’re immediately frowned upon with suspicion immediate accusations of racism or ethnocentricity. They’re branded as a white supremacist, or at the very least, a white nationalist sympathiser. In favour of logical fallacies,the argument, concerns and ideas put forward are pushed to the side, and the individual who sought to defend Australian culture, with the aim of preserving its diversity, and rich heritage, is demonised into silence.

Senator Fraser Anning wasn’t the only Australian senator to speak recklessly. Senator Gichuhi’s assertion was disappointing because it was too simple; suggesting either a lack of understanding about Australian civics and citizenship, or a deliberate denial of the obligations that are part of citizenship. Being an Australian citizen goes beyond just being given an official piece of paper and the rights that pertain to citizenship. It also means responsibility.

Rights and responsibilities are not separate from one another. Citizenship does not have a full stop after “…when I get a citizenship paper!” Citizenship is lived out. It grabs freedom, warms to adoption (through sensitivity to the culture) and responds with gratitude to those who make, and have made, that citizenship possible.


References are hyperlinked.

Photo credit: Joey Csunyo on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

In the recent Royal Wedding, the sermon Bishop Michael Curry preached, walked a fine line. Although his message was hampered by it, the message he delivered wasn’t riddled with the social gospel, nor did it replace Jesus as the Gospel.[i]

While I make note of the fact that Michael Curry has no problem with Same-Sex marriage, and I stand in difference of opinion with him on this matter, I take no issue with him here because of it. What I will aim to take issue with is the ideological reasoning that hampers the interpretation of what was espoused by Curry in his sermon.

Other than witnessing his obvious joy in being there, the highlight for me was his emphasis on God’s redemptive love – which is the essential framework of the Gospel. Curry preached that God’s redemptive love is what saves and transforms. Curry was right to centre his message on this.

Curry could have, however, made a clearer distinction between God’s love and human love, thereby avoiding any blurring of the qualitative distinction between God and humanity.

Hence there are caveats to how we should receive, and why we should test the message Michael Curry delivered.

The first caveat is to keep in mind that God’s love cannot be confused with human definitions of love. God communicates to us about love. It is received and up to us to respond to that Word spoken in both God’s command and deed. Second, love cannot define itself whether from the ground up or horizontally between two people, and, third, we must not deify our neighbour by confusing our love for God, with our love for others. A relationship exists between the two, but ‘they are not identical’ (Karl Barth)[ii].

The side point to this is that we must and should maintain a distance between human triumphalism (a display of self-centred – self-sustaining human pride), and God’s free and decisive triumph on our behalf (display of His love which included His humiliation), in Jesus Christ[iii].

In Jesus Christ, God made a way for man and woman, together[iv], to be with Him[v]. This is God’s redemptive love; that He should become one of us to do for us, what we were unable to do for ourselves. Usurping this only entertains the great primal evil that set primitive humanity on its path to total self-annihilation in the first place. As Curry pointed out, God paid the price for our sins.

Tyranny enters the door where man and woman look to themselves, or nature for a redeeming love – a revelation of love – outside God’s redeeming love – His loving act on behalf of creation, as activated and active, in both Covenant and His revelation in Jesus Christ. Love cannot transform anything without the Holiness of God’s grace.

Looking for redeeming love outside God was the great crime of the majority of Christians in Germany, who, in the 1930s, led astray by natural theology, looked to Hitler as a second revelation of God. An heretical toxicity epitomised in the 1935 film ,’Triumph of the Will’ by Nazi sympathizer, Leni Riefenstahl.

The triumph of God is counter to any and all human triumphalism, because the latter seeks to place man on God’s throne and take His power for ourselves. This is a futile attempt to take the Kingdom and boot God out of it. While we can reject God, we cannot reverse what God has already done – atonement for sin; reconciliation with God, salvation. Nor can we reject God without facing the consequences of rejecting His grace towards us. God triumphant means that human triumph exists only in and through God’s triumph[vi].The Moon cannot produce life, the way that the Sun can.

Double-standards and hypocrisy are inconsistent with love. True love walks hand-in-hand with self-limitation; grace with self-denial. Ergo, pride is the enemy of grace.

Take, for example, the many who in 2016 were quick to make a sordid equivalence between American Evangelical support for Donald Trump, and the support of German Christians for Hitler. They failed to show patience (love) and grace, and in turn failed (and still fail) to see the “German Christian” equivalence of their own support for altars draped in rainbow flags; the misuse of Scripture employed to fortify an ideology, the imposition of new cultural laws, the banning of books with the same fierce fanaticism as when ‘student groups at universities across Germany carried out a series of book burnings of works that the students and leading Nazi party members associated with an “un-German spirit.”[vii]; both professional and public punishment for anyone who doesn’t fall in agreement with the party-line.

If we’re to follow the example of Martin Luther King Jnr, as quoted by Michael Curry, those who unreasonably hate on Donald Trump,  should be asking themselves, do these words apply to my treatment of the President of the United States? Yet, how many instead thought to themselves “gee, all these rich people – especially Trump, SOOOO need to hear this!! #resist“? Even if Trump has, how many asking this latter question have failed to practice love for God and love for neighbour?

It’s only through God’s love that we come to see ourselves as equals; equally a sinner in the hands of a loving God, who seeks not the death of the sinner, but his and her correction, through both His firm “yes” and gracious “no” to them.

These caveats apply to both those who are criticising and praising Michael Curry. Removing love from the context of God’s redemptive love removes the context of love from its rightful place. To leave out God; thus ejecting the theology of his talk about love, rips the heart out of the message. Akin to the same poor decision of screenwriters, who decided that their silver-screen adaptation of P.D James’, ‘Children of Men, didn’t need the theological backbone, which held her brilliant dystopian novel together. What is left is an empty shell, with the same lame laughable substance as is found in ‘Idiocracy’.

In sum, God is at the centre of love because God is love.  Curry could have been more careful with his words, so as to avoid God’s redemptive love being misinterpreted as man’s redemptive love; so as to avoid sound bites being used to fortify an ideology that theology doesn’t fortify, but in fact confronts.

That, God is at the centre of salvation, means that God is the centre of redemptive love. Love alone doesn’t save us, the Creator acting in love towards his creature does. Man is ultimately not capable of redemption by his own means – love therefore does not save us unless it is anchored in God’s love (loving act) for us; we can’t save ourselves. Just as much as we cannot undo what God has done for us, even though his decisive act (for us) can be and is rejected by man and woman.

If I were to give an imediate response to Michael Curry’s choice of sermon, preached at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle, I would be tempted to view it as heretical. Cultural Marxist LGBT activism preached from the pulpit and not the Gospel. I won’t say that because what Curry preached wasn’t a ”love is love” sermon.

I liked Michael Curry’s sermon because of the emphasis on God’s redemptive love. Curry did what he does, and preached from the ideological stronghold that frames his theology, no one should be surprised by it. To his credit, Curry didn’t abuse his platform, when so many others who are chained by the prevailing ideology might have. The sermon certainly had all the buzzwords that the Left love to talk about[vii]. Ideas that they cannot properly define or impose, without either devouring each other, or inhumanely and unjustly breaking with God’s redemptive love, in order to achieve their own version of it.  Thus, Michael Curry’s sermon comes with necessary caveats.

In the end this event wasn’t about Michael Curry, or his sermon. It was about the joining together of the (now) Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan Windsor. It was a celebration of freedom in fellowship between man and woman; where man and woman become husband and wife. In an age where that is being regularly attacked, we shouldn’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Congratulations to the Royal newly weds.

Addendum:

I left out addressing Michael Curry’s “we need to discover love, like we did fire”, because it’s an whole other post: a) that’s nuts – Love already exists b) if anything Love needs to be rediscovered, and reasserted, not redefined c) the hidden presupposition behind his fire rant, is that “LGBT love” is the only real love that exists – e.g.: the false notion that prior to SSM, love didn’t really exist (which is complete nonsense) d) this is snare because love is love is essentially a lie.


References, not otherwise linked:

[i]  I’ve written about the problem with the asinine “love is love” slogan, here; and I’ve painstakingly pointed out the tyranny of ideology once it muzzles theological critique, here. So I see no need to restate myself outside reaffirming my commitment to what I’d publicly addressed on the subject since 2014.

[ii] Barth, K. 1960 Jesus, Man for Other Men, C.D. 3:2 p.216 (see also C.D. 1:2 pp, 388-454)

[iii] Barth: ‘Where humanity stands only to gain, God stands only to lose. And because the eternal divine decision (predestination) is identified with the election of Jesus Christ, its twofold content is that God wills to lose in order that man and woman may gain. There is a sure and certain salvation for humanity, and a sure and certain risk for God.’ (The election of Jesus Christ, ,CD II/II:162)

[iv] Barth: ‘In introducing the creation of woman, [God] did not put woman on the same level as the animals. He ascribed to her in advance the highest humanity…from the very outset solitary man is denied every other possibility of an appropriate helpmeet (partner). With the creation of woman, God expected man to confirm and maintain his true humanity by the exclusion of every other possibility. [True humanity is lived out, man for woman, woman for man]’  (Karl Barth, Creation & Covenant C.D 3:1:294)

[v] Barth: ‘With the creation of woman God expected man to confirm and maintain his true humanity by the exclusion of every other possibility [of a partner].’ (CD. 3:1 p.294)

[vi] John Calvin: ‘Any man or woman [in the Church or any who claim to be in/of the Church] who enthusiastically praises themselves is a fool and an idiot. The true foundation of Christian modesty is not to be self-complacent. [As Cyprian said, we have because God gives. We must not glory in anything, because God is the source of everything.]’ (On 1 Corinthians 4. The words in parenthesis are my paraphrased version).

[vii] 1933 Book Burnings, United States Holocaust Museum sourced, May 21, 2018 from https://www.ushmm.org/collections/bibliography/1933-book-burnings

[viii] liberation, “love” and power.

Photo credit: Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

There’s no real need to give you a one thousand word commentary on the following lectures because the content in each speaks for itself. I’ve watched all three; each of them reflect what I’ve written about or questioned here and on my other social media platforms.

When it comes to anything posted by or about Jordan Peterson, I am a cautious and curious listener. He has a grasp of the major issues that few, including most theologians and pastors, do. That’s a sad indictment, but the reality is most theologians and pastors show up as left-leaning and thus refuse to break with the modern liberal ideological radicalism perverting politics. My best guess is that this is due to the fear of public ridicule or a reluctance with having to deal with internal conflict caused by presenting an honest theological critique of the socio-political situation we are currently in.

My problem with Peterson is that he skirts around his own faith and steers clear of clarifying how his theology, or Christian theology in general, speaks into the political milieu of our age. This is amplified by his consistently ambiguous acknowledgement that the success of Western civilisation, especially after, through and despite so much human induced disaster, is due in large part to the Judeo-Christian faith and Western society’s Judeo-Christian foundations. However, given that Peterson is not a theologian, perhaps my problem with Peterson is too hasty; too harsh; too soon.

In regards to Alister McGrath, I’m a lot more receptive and less guarded. McGrath is a lot less political and a lot more consistent in his theological arguments, which are openly supported by his open confession of faith in Jesus Christ. This said, as a true blue student of Karl Barth, when it comes to McGrath overall, I’m drawn to hold some of McGrath’s thoughts on Natural Theology in question. Nevertheless, what Alister McGrath presents in the lecture below is outstanding and worth the effort spent absorbing.

Third and lastly, I’m not all that well acquainted with Peter Hitchens. I am less inclined to listen to him because his brother was a celebrity in the new atheist movement, and more inclined to listen to him because Peter Hitchens is a man of the radical Left, now a man-in-revolt against the radical Left.

Like Peterson, Hitchens is not a theologian, but speaks theological truths into a world happy to deny a Christian voice at the table unless it is a) supportive of the modern liberal ideological radicalism perverting politics or b) supportive of the unforgiving caricature of Christians in mainstream media.

Hitchens is careful with his words, considerate, relational and sober minded. Three qualities that Peterson and McGrath also possess; three qualities which make a great case for taking seriously what each individual has to say.

Peterson: ‘Postmodernism and Cultural Marxism‘ 

Alister McGrath: ‘Why God Won’t Go Away

Peter Hitchens: ‘The Abolition of Britain’ and other topics

 

 ‘Whoever has ears, let them hear.’ (Matthew 11:15)

This YouTube post from Lindsay Shepherd is captioned, “I’ve come to the realisation that I am no longer a leftist. Here’s why.” It’s worth sharing because, as one commentator suggested, “it’s not so much that you’ve moved away from the Left; the Left has moved away from you.” I’m not certain that I agree, but the sentiment in that statement describes something that I think is happening to a lot of people who traditionally associated themselves as ideologically progressive.

You might remember that Lindsay was at the epicentre of outrage, when she used a video of Jordan Peterson disagreeing with transgender-ism. Lindsay, a teaching assistant, was attempting to present the opposing side of gender theory in order to open up a broader discussion of the issues.

In true, cult of modern liberalism fashion, Lindsay was brought before a tribunal and punished for doing so. What the University didn’t know at the time, was that Lindsay had secretly recorded the socialist people’s court and their charge of blasphemy against her. The rest is now well documented internet history.

Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. and the professor directly involved have since apologised. This was after Lindsay had been hit with a wave of the all too predictable harassment and abuse, from many who proudly wave Leftist flag/s.

Has the Left moved away from people who have traditionally associated themselves with the Left? It’s a fair question, and if allowed, it’s a question that needs to be asked by those who’ve invested so much into holding the front-line against enemies of the Left, both real and imagined. An offshoot of this question would be, in light of Lindsay’s experience, how much of those enemies of the Left are in fact, real and how much are in fact the product of an overly sensitive imagination.

The coming great awakening may not be as abrupt as Lindsey’s has been. If anything it’s a classic case of Plato’s Cave. The one who is set free, returns to say to those remaining, that life exists outside the chains and the cave; life isn’t the shadows they see bouncing off the walls. Life isn’t lived in the imagination; life exists in the wonder and the investigation into what (and Who) inspires the imagination. The cave dwellers are being called to a fullness of humanity; freedom from the very thing that chains them. Attempting to silence the truth of the freedman, the remaining cave dwellers reject the summons and address. They see the freedman as foolish and refuse to leave because they’ve found the truth that encounters them from outside the cave to be offensive. They are happy in their ignorance.

Sometimes waking up to the slow boiling of the pot, in which some get stuck, takes time. Sadly, more often than not, it doesn’t happen at all.

In Lindsay’s case, I’m not suggesting that she is a prophet or that she’s now a republican, conservative, “christian traditionalist” (whatever that means), who is ready to live out all the negative stereotypes applied to all three groups.

What I am saying is that the significance of this event, and the many that parallel it, such as  recent attack on Chik-Fil-A’s, ‘Christian traditionalist” (whatever that means)  ”creepy invasion of New York“, is that the genuine prophets of our age, who’ve long been lovingly calling out the tragic trajectory of the Left, in it’s post-modern manifestation, are constantly being justified.

Kudos, Lindsay: